(NaturalNews) According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Alzheimer's disease (AD) -- which robs people of the ability to think, remember and reason -- is an irreversible, progressive disease that eventually destroys even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. The NIH predicts that as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease. There's no cure and no treatment that works for long.
But does that mean there's no hope you can stave off AD in the first place? So far, Big Pharma has nothing that works but researchers working on natural approaches are making progress. The latest is from a team of scientists in the Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. They say consuming extra virgin olive oil helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer's -- and they think they know why.
In their new study, just published in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience, they conclude that a component of olive oil helps shuttle abnormal proteins associated with AD out of the brain. Amal Kaddoumi and colleagues explained that the prevalence of Alzheimer's has long been known to be lower in Mediterranean countries and, in the past, this has been attributed to the high concentration of healthful monounsaturated fats in olive oil which is a big part of the Mediterranean diet. However, more recent studies have suggested that the actual protective agent might be a natural substance in olive oil called oleocanthal that protects nerve cells from the kind of damage that occurs in AD.
Kaddoumi's team set out to investigate whether oleocanthal actually helps decrease the accumulation in the brain of beta-amyloid, which is believed to be the culprit behind the mind-destroying properties of AD. For their study, they tracked the impact of oleocanthal in the brains and cultured brain cells of laboratory mice (a strain of rodents bred to use as stand-ins for humans with Alzheimer's disease).
The results? Oleocanthal was clearly effective. In every case, it showed a consistent pattern of it boosting the production of two proteins and key enzymes believed to be critical in ridding beta-amyloid from the brain.
"Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of the Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias," the report concludes.
As Natural News has also reported previously, scientists are finding that olive oil contains natural health-protective components that may be effective against many serious diseases. For example, researchers from the Catalonian Institute of Oncology (ICO) in Girona and the University of Granada in Spain discovered that extra virgin olive oil's polyphenols have bioactivity against breast cancer cell lines. And in a review of olive oil research published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, scientists from Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, concluded the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (which include a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis as well as several types of cancers) could be attributed to the regular consumption of virgin olive oil by Mediterranean populations.
About the author: Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.